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Best time to hike the Annapurna Circuit and elsewhere in the Annapurnas Advice on the best time to trek the Annapurna Circuit

When to hike the Annapurna Circuit and elsewhere in the Annapurnas

 Thorung La Pass newThe Annapurna massif offers some fantastic trekking ooportunities and the Annapurna Circuit trek  is generally ranked as one of the greatest treks in the world. Unsurprisingly this is by far the most popular trek in the Annapurna region of Nepal. The trek is famous for its variety of scenery and climatic changes. Starting at Besi Sahar, the trek takes you through sub-tropical meadows before ascending up into some stunning alpine peaks where you eventually reach the magnificent Thorung La Pass which, at 5,416m, is the highest point of the trek. From Thorung La Pass the trails winds its way downwards into the wild Mustang region where the scenery becomes semi-arid.

Fishtail Mountain SunriseApart from the full circuit there are some excellent shorter treks in the southern part of the Annapurnas which actually offer the best panoramic views of the whole massif as they have the benefit of a little distance which gives a perspective on the huge scale of the mountain range. Favourites among these are the trek to Poon Hill and the extension to this which takes you to Annapurna base camp.

Each morning at Poon Hill there is the equivalent of a mid-summer solstice celebration with trekkers gathering before dawn to watch the first of the day's sunlight hit the very top of Macha Pucchre (Fishtail mountain) before illuminating the whole of the massif. And Poon Hill can easily be trekked in seven days making it the perfect choice for a first Himalayan adventure.

Weather in the Annapurna region

Rainfall in the Annapurnas

Whichever trek you choose, one of the great attractions of trekking in the Annapurnas is that, because of its location, it  receives much less rain than most parts of the Himalaya. This is true all year round and particularly  during the summer months which bring the Asian Monsoon to most of Nepal. The chart opposite compares rainfall at Manang just to the east of the Thorung La Pass, Jomsom to the east of the circuit and Ghorepani, just below Poon Hill with the rainfall at Lukla, starting point for the Everest trek.

While the Annapurnas does see some increase in rainfall during the normal monsoon season, this is nothing like as dramatic as they experience further west which means that trekking is possible all year round. You will experience rain most days on the eastern part of the massif if you trek from June to August but these are normally short-lived heavy downpours, often at night, with the rest of the time relatively clear and dry. Also the views of the highest peaks can be obscured by cloud.  Once you reach the eastern side of the Thorung La though (Jomsom) it is pretty dry and clear all year round.

Although less heavy than over the Everest region during the monsoon, the rainfall over the Annapurnas is sufficient to make the trails muddy and to cause some landslips that will affect the trail. There are pros and cons of this: the pros are that these conditions keep vehicles off the trails so you are not sharing your trek with trucks. The cons are that in places the trail can be very slippy and the rain will bring out leaches-not in the numbers you would find in the Everest region but bothersome all the same.

Most articles giving advice on when is the best time for trekking in Nepal fails to recognise the differences between the Everest and Annapurna regions, basing their advice solely on the Everest region. As a result, the normal advice is that you should trek in the Annapurnas only in February to May and September. This in turn means the Summer months are very quiet. So if you  can cope with a little rain and like your trekking without crowds this is a really good time to visit.

While rainfall is the most important weather factor, temperatures also needs to be considered and the charts below show the maximum and minimum temperatures at the same points around the Annapurna region.

Average max temperatures AnnapurnaAverage minimum temperatures Annapurna

As this shows, not only is the Annapurna region drier during the summer monsoon it is also appreciably cooler which means lower humidity and altogether better hiking conditions.

The converse of that is that the winter months are significantly colder- this is mainly due to the height differentials between Lukla and the Annarpurna locations but it also is more generally true that the west of the country is colder. This does mean that trekking in the Annapurnas during winter can be challenging with average daily temperatures never much above 5°c and often as cold as -5°c. TThe full Annapurna Circuit is actually shut for several months over winter because of snow on top of the Thorung La but even though other routes are open, unless you are very hardy indeed, and have a very expensive sleeping, bag December to Mid February are probably best avoided.

Whenever you choose to go, remember that high mountains make their own weather. Two members of the Kandoo team trekked the Annapurna Circuit and had a warm sunny day on Thorung La in October 2014. A week later 43 people died in a snowstorm that dropped over a metre of snow in 24 hours.

So for a quick review of what you should expect as weather for trekking in the Annapurnas see our summary below.

Weather conditions for trekking in the Annapurnas

 Other factors to think about when deciding when to hike in the Annapurnas

Festivals in PokharaBesides the weather for trekking, there are a number of other factors you might want to consider before deciding when you want to arrange your Annapurna trek. One of these is the weather in Pokhara. Pokhara is a fascinating city and with the Lake to its south and the Annapurna massif to its north it is a great place to stay over for a few days to rest and relax. In the shoulder months, either side of the monsoon the weather in Pokhara is perfect for this and if you want to add on a few days here, this is a great time to choose.

Pokhara also hosts some of the best festivals in the region. The Annapurna Jayanti festival commemorates the birth anniversary of Goddess Annapurna, the Goddess of nourishment and falls in December. The Phewa festival celebrates the Nepali new year in April and there is a huge Food Festival in the Pokhara. And then there is the Nepali equivalent of Dewali, which in Nepal is often called the Tihar festival and falls in October.

And last but by no means least in your checklist of when to trek should be how much will the flights be. These can now vary hugely at different times of year so if you have flexiblility check these out and you might get a great deal.

 

\References: Government of Nepal, Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Meteorological Forecasting Division

Current weather in the Annapurna region

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